MedPAC urges Congress to reduce imaging spending

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) wants to reduce the money spent on diagnostic imaging by requiring doctors who order large numbers of MRIs, CT scans and other such tests to obtain prior authorization before conducting them, American Medical News reports. 

MedPAC asked Congress in its June report to consider that measure, which would pay doctors less for follow-up scans taking place for the same case. What's more, the independent organization has called for Congress to "reduce the physician work component" involved with imaging, which also would mean reduced payments. 

The request comes at a time when overuse of imaging couldn't be more heavily scrutinized. Last week, Kaiser Health News and the Washington Post wrote about early data from a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid report indicating that "hundreds of hospitals" are overusing double CT scans. 

Still, there's no shortage of resistance for MedPAC's proposed measures. AuntMinnie reported last week that 61 members of Congress signed and circulated a letter "expressing concerns" about the proposal, while several physician organizations also have spoken out. 

"While MedPAC has confirmed that the growth in utilization of advanced imaging services was flat from 2008 to 2009, it continues to recommend dramatic reimbursement cuts, as well as a prior authorization program that would result in reducing seniors' access to imaging services," Dave Fisher, executive director of the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance (MITA), said in a statement. "MedPAC's has chosen to disregard the very imaging use data it confirms." 

American College of Cardiology Associate Director of Regulatory Affairs Brian Whitman added that such measures would only serve to "encourage less coordinated care." 

To learn more:
- here's the amednews article
- read the AuntMinnie's piece
- check out this MITA announcement

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